On a Sunday afternoon in early October, a group of Medieval to Mozart students clusters at the 63 bus stop at Grand and Snelling before heading into downtown St. Paul to the Ordway Concert Hall. The Mac students take their seats in the massive hall with a high ceiling above them and hundreds of audience members surrounding them. Along with their professor, Mark Mazullo, they’re about to listen to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra perform Bach’s St. John Passion. A harpsichord is positioned in the middle of the stage, and music major Karl Schuetzle ’20 (Minneapolis) considers it for a little while before identifying it. “I don’t see a lot of harpsichords,” he says.

When the performance begins—an oratorio that Schuetzle likens to an opera in form and style—the students follow along with the lyrics in a program divided into two columns, one for the original German and one for the English translation. Some of the lyrics come directly from Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible; others come from Lutheran hymnals and other sources.

This piece was meant to be played in front of a live crowd, Schuetzle explains, and after the concert, he understands it differently. “It’s one thing to listen to a recording in your room—it’s another to hear the music in a setting that’s more in tune with the intention of the piece,” he says. “It’s easier to follow along and relate all the ideas we’re talking about in class. Engaging with the music performed live brought a lot to the table that I wouldn’t have gotten from listening to a couple of sections online.”

April 2 2019

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